“The afternoon knows what the morning never suspected.” ― Robert Frost
Dear Me is *not* one of the classics among my collection … but maybe it should be. It is a collection of letters written by adult “celebrities” to their sixteen-year-old selves. It is edited by freelance writer Joseph Galliano. Perhaps you’ve heard of him? Perhaps not. Your chances are better if you’re from the other side of the pond. He lives and works in London.
The whole point of this book, if I may be so bold, is to let us… as in, we the readers… know that we all hailed from the same universal experience as awkward, scared, hormone-driven teenagers to become… who we are as adults.
Some of the letters are handwritten, some written on a word processor. Some are pages long… and some are a line or two: To Young Steve, one reads, You’re doing just fine.
Some are funny, some serious. Some include photos, some doodles. All are poignant.
What is the benefit of writing such a letter to ourselves? Galliano tells us that “The act of addressing yourself with kindness and adult understanding can give you a better sense of who you are now.”
I can only speak for myself when I say that it’s cathartic and an exercise in compassion – and I had precious little of that as a teenager, especially for myself.
And so, I’d like to share my letter. If you’d like to share yours, please feel free!
Hey Sher (at 16),
I come from the future. You’ll have trouble believing this but it’s okay. All you need to do is read.
I will begin with the thing that’s most important to you:
YOU AREN’T FAT. I wrote that in caps because I want you to remember it. Otherwise, you will go on a lifetime of diets that will actually make you fat. Yeah, I know it makes no sense. Please, just believe me. Keep playing tennis, dancing, and swimming…. the things you LOVE… and eat what you want. You love salads, fish and unsweetened iced tea. Eat and drink lots of those things. Have some cake, too, but keep it to birthdays and celebrations. Don’t look at others to determine your right weight or size. You’re uniquely you.
You think that being funny will be your saving grace. Good job! It is. : ) <– that’s a smiley face emoticon. You don’t know that yet. Turn your head sideways and you’ll see it: two eyes and a smile. See? We do that sort of thing in the future. LOL <– Geez, this future thing is hard. That’s “Laugh out Loud”… and girl, you can make almost anything okay with your laugh. The way you see things is so crazy and wonderful. Don’t lose it!
Boys are cool but don’t put all your hopes in them. I know this will sound weird but stick with me here: Put your hopes in YOU. You have way more power than you realize. I speak from experience and it’s taken my lifetime to get it. Don’t settle. Don’t accept bad behavior. Be willing to walk away from anyone and anything that doesn’t bring you joy.
Do NOT – and I can’t stress this enough – EVER put a cigarette in your mouth. It is a disgusting, filthy habit and for god’s sake, you have asthma. I’m telling you… those things are addictive… just like drugs. Even if you smoke “socially” and quit for good down the road, you’ll always crave them. ALWAYS. DON’T START. I’m actually begging you on this one. Please!
Bappa knows stuff about education, health, and life. Listen to him. Nana will turn herself inside-out for you. Don’t let her.
Finish college the first time. Never walk off a job. Drink lots of water. Buy good shoes. Don’t dye your hair – trust me on this one – you’ll never stop, once you start.
Treat Mom and Dad with respect – always. Include your sister in as much as you can. You will have a friend for life.
Walk your dogs every day and hug them twice as much.
Write. Write more. Keep writing!
I know it’s a lot to ask… all this stuff. You’re not alone. I’m here! You have the capacity for great and lifelong joy and I don’t want you to lose it. Let’s do it together.
With so much love,
You (Me, Us) at nearly 60.